Jack in the Box

…now with added music. (I suddenly noticed that it fitted a traditional tune perfectly!)

It also fits the subject matter of a book I’m working on: more on that in due course…

backup:

Down in the workhouse when I was a lad
No tongue can relate all the pleasures we had
Dry bread, and Bastille soup by the bowl
And a flogging or two for the good of our souls x2

A tale I recall of those happy times
And an orphan lad always to mischief inclined
He was ever in line for a kick, at the best
And the poor workhouse master could scarcely find rest

Till came the day one of the other lads died
“Aha!” says the master, “I’ll settle your pride!”
He shut up the lad in the dead-house to stay
Alone with the coffin until the next day

But what should Jack do but open the box
He takes out the corpse, and with it swaps clothes
Props it up on the rail at the top of the stairs
Then he hops in the box and the winding-sheet wears

And when it grew dark, the master came up
With a plate for Jack, some victuals to sup
Holds it out to the corpse on the rail
Who says not a word, but stands stiff, cold and pale

“Well, take it!” the master says in surprise
“I should think you’d be starving by now, damn your eyes!”
Then up leaps Jack, who was lying so still
And says “If he wunna eat it, I will!”

When the master heard this he got such a fright
He let go of the plate, and turned whiter than white
Gave a terrible shriek, such a fright did he get
Fell back down the stairs and near broke his neck

Wasn’t that a sad fall for a man such as he
So kind to his charges, with his boot so free?
So pity the poor who must live on the Roll
And think on the guardians and pray for their souls

A half-written song of mine based on a story of Knighton workhouse from ‘An idler on the Shropshire borders’, by Ida Gandy. Told to her by Ellen Hughes (nee Jordan) 1864-1940 also known as Granny Hughes. Many thanks to her great-granddaughter Denise Lewis of the Memories of Shropshire FB group for the information and photograph.

The tune is the well-known ‘Down-derry-down’ tune used for  various nautical songs including ‘The Dreadnought’/’Flash Packet’/’Liverpool Packet’/’Flash Frigate’… Though I guess it’s more naughty than nautical.

(c) David Harley

Acoustic jams in Cornwall in early-ish September

From John Tremaine/Folk In Cornwall I have news of two more acoustic jams next weekend (9th and 11th September 2022).

First, an evening session at the Lostwithiel Social Club, Fore Street PL22 0BL (I love the melodeon graphic!)

And an afternoon session on the Sunday, a little folkier, in Tywardreath (the New Inn, PL24 2QP): John says there may be another of these in October but then they’ll probably have to stop for the winter.

David Harley

The Goose and the Commons

This is based on an 18th century lyric protesting against the Inclosure Acts, usually called ‘The Goose And The Common’ or ‘They hang the man and flog the woman’. I put a tune to a version of that lyric some time ago, and it’s on my ‘Cold Iron‘ album. While the privatization of common and/or waste land is more or less a done deal, the underlying topic of those who govern doing so for their own benefit rather than that of the people still has a very contemporary resonance. The lyric below makes that link more explicit: I don’t know that the world needs it, but somehow it demanded to be written… I don’t know that I’ll perform it as a song, though, as I’m already performing the older version.

The law demands that we atone
When we sell things we do not own
Yet lets MPs and Lords so fine
To sell off what is yours and mine

The poor and stateless don’t escape
When they conspire the law to break
This must be so, but we all endure
Those who conspire to make the law

You and I do not escape the web
Of laws that profit from us, the plebs
But MPs and their cronies too
Use or ignore them as it suits

The law forbids both man and woman
To protest corruption in the Commons
And so we all will Justice lack
Till we can vote to take it back…

David Harley

Support gig in St Ives

I’ve been a little depressed at having to cancel a few dates this year because of ill health (including a Lafrowda fundraiser and the Weston-super-Mare Sea Shanty ad Folk Music Festival, unfortunately – shanties are not very Harley, but the event would have been fun). However, I’m very pleased to have been invited to support the rather excellent Green Diesel at the St Ives (Cornwall) Arts Club on August 9th. (And as it’s quite near to where I live, it shouldn’t be a problem healthwise this time.)  Tickets (only £3!) from Eventbrite.
David Harley

Hosanna In Extremis

Something a little different from me on the Poetry Archive YouTube channel. Yes, it’s a poetry video.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) YouTube has done its favourite trick of keeping the volume as low as it can get away with, and I think I rushed it a bit. However, I suspect it will be on the forthcoming poetry and music project in some form.

Fortunately, there are plenty of videos on that channel worth listening to and not requiring tweaking of the volume control.

Meanwhile, here’s the poem.

Born in freefall, oppressed by gravity;
Cutting the harness and falling free
In the last days of the human race,
The last few metres of the Fall from Grace.
The gods look down and cannot change a thing:
No miracles, no more psalms to sing.
The rich men take the seats that they reserved;
The rest fight for a place on Dead Man’s Curve.
Somehow the human race is hanging on,
But humanity’s already dead and gone.

There’ll be no singing in the lifeboats,
Unless it’s in the Captain’s praise.
The countdown started long ago,
The last days of the human race,
But the chaos we’re creating cannot wipe
The smirk from the rich man’s face.

This is your last call:
The countdown to freefall.
The coming gale will shake the earth’s foundations,
And most of us will perish in the flood,
The poor and unseaworthy lie abandoned,
Buried somewhere deep within the mud.
Survival of the fattest; trickle-up economics;
Fact and fiction, fear and faith, despair and desire;
Politics and science, bigotry, morality:
We’re choking on the smoking and you can’t see the fire
.
Cold turkey voting still for Christmas
Season of myths and moral fruitlessness –
Break those habits, not the habitat,
Or you’ll take the whole world with you when you choke on the excess.
This is the very last last chance:
Let’s face down the muzak and dance.

David Harley